Access to work
Help and support to stay in work
The Access to Work scheme is run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and gives grants to help people start working or stay in work. This includes self-employment. You may qualify for help if you are disabled or have a health or mental health condition. You can find out more about this at GOV.UK.
There is a similar scheme in Northern Ireland. You can find out more from NI Direct.
Access to Work grants are capped at £40,800 per year
- For all new grants given from 1 October 2015
- From 1 April 2018 for all grants given before 1 October 2015
You will only be eligible if your employer is based in England, Scotland and Wales. But as mentioned above there is a similar scheme in Northern Ireland – see NI Direct for more information.
To qualify you must be aged 16 or over and in a paid job or self-employed. You can also qualify if you are about to start a job or work trial. It is not available for any voluntary work.
The main requirement is that the disability or health condition you have affects your ability to do your job or means you have to pay extra work-related costs.
You might not be able to qualify if you receive certain benefits. You should speak to or email the access to work helpline to find out more.
Access to Work grants can contribution to the additional employment costs resulting from disability that an employer would not normally be expected to fund. The money can be used to pay for a wide range of things such as adaptations to the equipment you use, to purchase special equipment, meet your fares to work if you can’t use public transport and even provide a support worker to help you in your workplace. You can apply for help whether you are employed or self-employed.
Access to Work does not provide the support itself, but provides a grant to reimburse the cost of the support that is needed. An application has to be made by the employee or self-employed person, so that an assessment can be made of their needs in the workplace and the appropriate level of grant can be calculated and arranged. In some cases, there may have to be an arrangement where DWP and the employer share costs, however businesses with up to 49 employees may not have to pay any contributions at all.
In July 2013 the Government announced that disabled people on traineeships, supported internships, work trials and work academies are to get additional help through Access to Work. See GOV.UK website for more details.
You may want to use your grant to employ someone to support you (a support worker or personal assistant). If you are self-employed, taking on a support worker is similar to taking on a personal assistant using a social care personal budget. It means you will become an employer and need to think about paying wages, tax, national insurace and employment law. The rest of this website will guide you through these responsibilities and offer you support and guidance to help you get it right. Use the menu on the right to find out more.
If you are an employee, it may be that your employer gets the grant to employ a support worker for you, in which case they deal with the related employer and tax obligations.
If you have received access to work funding yourself, for example for travel costs, you do not need to report anything to HMRC as the grant is not taxable income if it is expended entirely on the costs it is intended to reimburse.
If you are an employee, your employer may receive part of the grant, for example to cover expenses of equipment that they provide for you or to employ a support worker to assist you. (This is different to you taking on a support worker personally, which could result in obligations on you as an employer, as mentioned above.)
You will not be taxed on the value of those items or cost of providing a support worker as a personal ‘benefit in kind’. The tax rules specifically prevent a tax charge arising in those circumstances. (For anyone with a technical interest in the law, this protection can be found in the Income Tax (Benefits in Kind) (Exemption for Employment Costs Resulting from Disability) Regulations 2002, SI 2002/1596.)
Generally, grants have to be accounted for in the business’s accounts. There is no specific exemption from tax for access to work grants, so we have to rely on normal accounting practice which says that government grants have to be accounted for in the business accounts. For those with an interest in the technical detail, this is in accordance with SSAP4, which explains how Government grants should be dealt with under those rules:
“The ‘accruals’ concept requires that revenue and costs are accrued, matched with one another so far as their relationship can be established or justifiably assumed, and dealt with in the profit and loss account of the period to which they relate. Government grants should therefore be recognised in the profit and loss account so as to match them with the expenditure towards which they are intended to contribute.”
Employers or the self-employed should therefore:
- include the full amount of the access to work grant for the relevant period as 'income' in their accounts (the relevant period being the date of receipt if the accounts are prepared on the 'cash basis', or the period for which payment is due if preparing 'accrued' accounts)
- deduct the full expense of equipment provided or paying a support worker as an expense (again on a 'cash' or 'accruals' basis depending on your selected method of accounting
By and large, this should mean there is no effective tax charge as the amount of the grant and the expense incurred will often match (indeed, we understand that usually access to work operates by the expense first being incurred and then reimbursed on submission of receipts, so often match exactly).
Where confusion might occur is where the cost of support provided to the employee does not match the amount of the grant. Say, for example, the access to work scheme has approved a cost of £200 for a certain piece of equipment for the eligible employee, but the employer decides to help their employee further by choosing a more expensive model for £300. We understand this is perfectly permissible under the access to work scheme, but the grant will only cover the lower amount of £200 if that is adequate for the employee’s needs. The employer will include £200 of grant income in their accounts, then claim a deduction of £300 for the expense incurred. By following the principle of including the grant in full, then claiming the deduction in full, the accounts will always produce the right result – that is, that the employer gets a ‘net’ expense of £100 relieved for tax purposes for the support they have provided over and above the grant.
Such a mismatch in grant income and cost can also occur where access to work only covers a percentage of the costs, as can be the case when an employee has been working for six weeks or more in a job but then applies for a grant.